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Joe O’Rourke – High School Photo at his Memorial 9/08

Editing the chapters of my book on the DC-9 trial brings alive the words and feelings of people like Joe O’Rourke, the only one of the Nine who has passed away. What a brilliant and powerful speaker! Here is a sample from my summary of the trial transcript:

Joe O’Rourke was allowed to present the lengthiest statement the defense had been able to give at this point in the trial. Joe said that our only defense (against the five federal felony charges of burglary and malicious destruction of property) is “our lives.” He maintained that while we didn’t have the consent of Dow to enter their offices, “ we did have the consent of the poor people around the world; the 50% of the world’s population now dying of malnutrition, the mothers, the babies that die every day in the US. We feel we did have their consent to stop the Dow Chemical Company’s relationship with the United States.” (Transcript p. 582).

Joe argued that we were not committing a crime but stopping “a criminal activity by a massive institution that is crushing, not just lives in Vietnam, not just in Guatemala, but our own lives, because most of us are still powerless to change Dow, to stop Dow from making a bomb, an incendiary which is against international law; whether, indeed, the history of Dow Chemical Company isn’t precisely the thing that should be on trial here today…isn’t Dow the criminal? Isn’t their relationship with the government a criminal act? Aren’t their foreign investments sapping land resources, money, labor from countries all over the world? Isn’t that a criminal act?

…Isn’t it Dow that really should be on trial before you today? Isn’t it because of their managing, manipulating, killing, in your name as well as mine, we have alleged to have tried to stop them and you must judge whether that was just, or not.” (Transcript, p. 583)

The six of us were leaning forward, sending Joe our energy and support as all the Jesuit training in logic and public speaking poured into this powerful delivery. He continued to argue that some property, such as slave ships “that brought some of your ancestors to the US, the gas ovens of Nazi Germany,” and Dow’s napalm have no right to exist. If Dow is the burglar, the thief that steals from the poor around the world, then Dow is the one with the malice, manipulating our lives, turning our economy and society into an ‘economy of death,’ a ‘society of death.’ (p. 584). “What we did was really an act for life, an act of hope that you can trust us, trust our truth.” ( p. 585).

Do you have friends you would like to bring alive in your writing? Are the political causes of the sixties meaningful to you today?

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